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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
New arrest warrant out for Menem
By Elliott Gotkine
BBC South America correspondent

Carlos Menem
Menem is accused of hiding a Swiss bank account
An Argentine judge has issued an international arrest warrant for Carlos Menem after the ex-president failed to appear in court on tax fraud charges.

Another judge asked Interpol to track him down last Tuesday when he failed to turn up for questioning on charges of embezzling up to $60m (34m).

The money was allegedly embezzled in the construction of two prisons.

Mr Menem, who denies the allegations, could face extradition from Chile, where he lives with his wife and child.

Prison fears

Judge Norberto Oyarbide had asked Mr Menem to appear in court on three previous occasions to respond to allegations that he hid a Swiss bank account containing $600,000 from the tax authorities.

So when the flamboyant former president failed to turn up a fourth time, the judge decided to initiate extradition proceedings.

Mr Menem initially claimed that a fractured arm sustained while playing golf prevented him from travelling from Chile, where he lives in a luxury apartment with his ex-beauty queen wife and newborn son.

But Judge Oyarbide said that recent television images showing Mr Menem happily performing an ethnic dance showed the injury excuse to be pathetically untrue.

A more likely reason for Mr Menem's failure to turn up can be found in recent comments he made to a Chilean newspaper in which he confided he feared spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Yet with further cases pending, including one that he trafficked arms to Croatia and Ecuador, the chances of this becoming a reality are drawing closer every day.


SEE ALSO:
Warrant out for ex-Argentine head
20 Apr 04  |  Americas
Menem arms charges dropped
28 Aug 03  |  Americas
Menem protests his innocence
06 Jun 01  |  Americas
Profile: Carlos Menem
22 Apr 03  |  Americas


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